Alison Gorman is a poet, proud mum and the founder of Inkling Writing Studio, which offers creative writing classes to kids on a foundation built on fun and inclusion. She was inspired to create Inkling after seeing the joys her own two boys experienced putting their first stories to page. While the pandemic threw her a curveball, she has spent the previous two terms adapting her workshops to an online platform. Now registered as a COVID safe business, she is happy to be reintroducing face-to-face classes at her very own new studio in Hunters Hill.
Here, Alison shares with us her reading preferences, histories and loves.
What are you reading right now?
My bedside table always has an assortment of books ready to suit my different reading moods. I have just finished The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku – an inspiring, wise memoir from a 100-year-old Holocaust survivor. I seem to be lost in World War 2 because I have just started The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson, a compelling account of Churchill and London during the blitz. A fantastic read. I always have a book of poetry nearby; this week I am reading The Unswept Room by one of my favourite American poets, Sharon Olds.
You teach creative writing to kids from Years K-8. What are some of the books you loved growing up?
The first book I ever loved was The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. From there I discovered Roald Dahl – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was my favourite. I read the Little House on the Prairie series and I am still struck by the beautiful descriptions of landscape in these books.
Later on I read Anne of Green Gables and the Narnia series. When I was a teenager I adapted The Magician’s Nephew into a play, typing it up on my Dad’s old grey Remington typewriter. I still have a dog-eared copy of it somewhere.
You teach those who are just starting to discover the joys of language and the wonder of creating stories of their own. What is it about teaching creative writing to kids you find most rewarding?
I love watching children realise that their imagination is their own. There is no right or wrong in creating a story or a poem. They form a relationship with a creative part of themselves which liberates them to learn the skills of writing without fear.
If you know how much fun it can be to invent and tell a story, then there is a real reason to learn how to form a sentence and spell. I enjoy seeing children hear their own voice when they read their work aloud and I love watching them discover the joy of playing with language. Words can be powerful and funny.
Which three children’s book authors do you love most for their use of creative storytelling?
- David Walliams: I love the humour in his stories and the way he captures exactly what makes children laugh. e.g The Worlds Worst Teachers. His books are great for teaching children how to create detailed characters who are believable and engaging.
- Jackie French: I am in awe at the number and range of children books Jackie has written. I love the way they are often uniquely Australian. I also find that for older children, her books are often a gateway into historical fiction.
- Robin Stevens: Her books are a fantastic introduction for children into the fun of reading a great mystery. They usually have a map of the story setting at the front of them, which I use as a starting point when I teach mystery writing to children.
You’re also a writer of poems, and teach this skill in your Inkling classes too. How did you develop a love of poetry?
My father gave me a small green volume of Shakespeare’s sonnets when I was ten to remember our visit to Anne Hathaway’s cottage. I would read them aloud to myself in my bedroom and not understand them; but I loved the sound and feel of the language.
It was years later when I went back to university that I enrolled in an Introduction to Poetry unit. Our teacher Judith Beveridge gave us each a reader of poems which we studied before writing our own. I became hooked. There is something about the distillation of ideas, the intensity of language and the way poetry can articulate something that otherwise would remain invisible that I love.
If you could pick three books to take with you on a desert island, what would they be, and why?
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – because no matter how many times I read it, I never get sick of Heathcliff and Cathy, their relationship and those wild Yorkshire moors. I was lucky enough to visit the Bronte parsonage last December.
- The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. I love the detailed, authentic depiction of family dysfunction in this novel.
- True Stories by Helen Garner – because I enjoy her spare, direct prose and ability to capture the extraordinary in everyday life.
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